How the heck do I intentionally rest?

Inspire me. Inspire me. Inspire me. Pleading with God has become our most common form of communication lately. I’m the content manager for our office’s blog and all forms of social media. Brainstorming is generally a strong suit of mine, but lately it’s just been like, God, what can I do to inspire myself? I’m seeking it in photography and articles and books and even sunk so low to even try and find it in Pinterest boards (I love Pinterest, but that isn’t generally where I go when seeking inspiration). I think that productivity and my inspiration go hand in hand, and productivity hasn’t been as much of a thing lately.

So, back to this whole learning intentional rest thing.

This is the kind of thing that needs its own welcome sign, like “Welcome! We’re Glad Georgia’s On Your Mind,” or “Tennessee, The Volunteer State, Welcomes You!” Welcome! To Jenna’s Brain Where Rest is a Foreign Concept But We’re Working On Her!

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” // MATTHEW 11:28-30 ESV

But I guess I could backtrack and tell you what started all of these intentional rest thoughts:

A couple Fridays ago, I was sitting in a hair salon with one of my friends on her off night from camp when I called my mom. I had forgotten they were leaving for a road trip to Ohio the following day, but within hours, I had taken off of work, put plans on hold, and made my way into that crammed minivan to embark on one of the best family vacations I’ve had in a long time. The trip involved surprising my brothers, 6 hours to Lexington, a night in a hotel where the 1-year-old thought we were supposed to party from 2 AM – 4 AM, 6 more hours to our lake resort in Ashtabula, pizza with family Covered Bridge Pizza (mom’s favorite), a morning spent at my 94-year-old great grandmother’s farm (where my mom spent her childhood summers with her cousins), lots of meeting 2nd cousins and their children and a ton of family I’ve never met or hadn’t seen in a really long time, lunch on the huge porch of their house, chocolate ice cream, chats with my great grandmother, adventures in junk food places and many arcades at Geneva on the Lake, lunch at Lakeshore park, swinging, visiting my mom’s brother and sister and their kids, long talks on front porches, KFC dinners in the hotel room, a straight-shot 11ish hour drive back to Berry, lots of ice cream cones with crunch coat, lots of pictures taken, lots of love, and an entire Harry Potter book. It was the best best best spontaneous thing I’ve ever done.

And then the next day, I proceeded to get back in the car and go on another 3-hour road trip with my boyfriend to spend the weekend with his family in Knoxville (this involved a lot of shopping and a lot of lying around the house and a lot of Lifetime movies, and a date night downtown for our 3 months). And it was perfect. And it was supposed to be restful, so I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why Monday morning I was already drained and exhausted and needing more than 2 cups of coffee to pull me back to my productive, to-do-list-making self.

I’ve come to understand that rest doesn’t mean binge-watching Netflix or haphazardly doing little chores around the dorm and lying around. I’m still learning what exactly intentional rest means, but I know it doesn’t include those things. I’ll try to put my ideas of rest into adequate words:

For me, intentional rest includes sleep and processing time. Some people might get riled up by processing things or are led to over-thinking, but for me, to write everything out and process is to begin to let go and calm down. Writing pages and pages at a time is rest for me. I have to force myself to do it sometimes, but it means rest. Or simply reading Scripture. Not studying it or reading commentaries, but reading or writing out Scripture, that’s got a sweet spot for me. Also, intentionally not spending time in front of a computer screen is extremely restful. Don’t even open it up. No scanning new photography or editing pictures or looking at Facebook or any other form of social media.

Running. Running is restful to me. It wears me out in the best way possible and helps me put my mind back together in healthy ways. Writing and running.

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We are told to rest. Rest is good.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” // GENESIS 2:2-3 ESV

I also do really well in silence & solitude. Those are my resting places. That’s where I’ve noticed a pattern of finding and hearing and listening to my Father. “We had this 2 & a half hour period for solitude & silence. Those are 2 of my most favorite things, right under coffee, quality time, and letters. I sat in the freezing cold on the back porch of Cottage #6 in silence. No worship music in my ears. No warm bodies around me. Silence, except for the sound of snow melting off the roof, which was oddly soothing. I looked out at this expanse of bare trees and white white white snow. Pure white. And I was immediately overwhelmed. I journaled about 10 pages in this time & sometimes it was me rambling, but mostly it was conversation with the Lord. Back & forth Truth. And the Lord spoke. Endlessly. I look back at these words & I know they are not my own. Why are you afraid to come into My presence?…Do not be afraid, it is I…I will take you as you are, but I will not leave you that way…I LOVE YOU. YOU ARE MINE…Come home. Come home. Come home. I love you. I accept you. I want you. And I can honestly say those are the MOST intimate moments I have had with Jesus to date. And I loved every single minute of it. That is what my heart longs for: to know Jesus more intimately & deeper every single day of my life & until He calls me Home.” These were previously written thoughts in a post I wrote/journaled out when we went on a Spiritual Disciplines Retreat back in February.

I have no no no idea why I forget these moments that make me feel on top of the world. I don’t know why it is so difficult for me to just pull away from people and technology and responsibilities for at least an hour every now and then. I just like to keep go go going.

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” // HEBREWS 4:9-11 ESV

Rest is restoring. Rest is refreshing. Rest is renewing. Rest is required of us so that we can work up to the full potential of which God has called us to.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” // PSALM 23 ESV

So sometimes I just have to stop myself and instead of relying on my own knowledge, I pause and ask God, “Hey, could you help a daughter out? Help me rest, please!” And I think I’m getting better at leaning into Him and asking Him for things and relying on Him instead of my own strength and knowledge, and I think that’s step one. (Stay tuned because this is probably only “How the heck do I intentionally rest? Part 1.)

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Currently I’m… #3

Loving: Hazelnut coffee. World Market. Espresso + ice cream together (insert praise hands here). Keeping Up With the Kardashians (no. judgment.). To-do lists (some things never change).

Learning: What intentional rest looks like and how I’ve been getting it wrong for so long. Still how to love myself well in order to love others well.

Reading: All about Matthew. After 2 years, I finally decided to check out the commentary on it. World-rocking. And I’ll continue to make my way through the New Testament this coming semester.

Eating: Bananas. Coconut yogurt. Texas Turtle coffee (from World Market…sooo good).

Excited about: LifeCast. It’s a discipleship program kicking off this Saturday & it’s all about identity in Christ. Basically, all the good things.

Needing: Sleep. Much more sleep.

Thinking about: To-do lists. LifeCast. Photography. Rain. Coffee. Loving well. Focusing on people and making them feel like my center of attention in conversation (trying to weed out distractions to love people well and let them feel loved). Basically nothing too mind-boggling at the moment, which is new for me.

Thankful for: People loving me well. Coffee. Sleep. To-do lists. Spontaneity.

Listening to: This. Is. Golden. You’re welcome.

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Enjoy that because it is rockin’. Happy Wednesday, friends (we’re halfway there).

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I look ahead believing You are able.

Some days, I wake up and feel on top of the world. I feel more sure of myself than usual (not completely sure, but closer than I’ve been in a while), and I feel beautiful and loved and soulful.

Today was one of those days. On top of the world. Beautiful. Inspired. Loved. Soulful. 

I wake up and I think about my Heavenly Father and my gifts that He’s given me and it causes me to focus more on His face. The days that I’m able to focus on His face, those are the greatest days. Over-the-moon joy because I accept His grace and new mercies in the morning on these days. I recognize them. These are the thin places (I once heard the thin places described as nearness with God, and I love that phrase for it). The thin places or Kairos moments or whatever they are for you, that’s where the nearness is. I find the nearness in thankfulness, in unending gratitude for my Creator and Life-Giver.

I’ve been reading this incredible book by a woman named Carolyn Custis James. When Life and Beliefs Collide. My boss gave it to me to read for the summer (I only take it in small chunks because it’s got some pretty heavy stuff in it). She told me she started this book thinking it was going to be about women & theology and it ended up being the best book on suffering she’s ever read. I have to agree with her on that one.

James talks about knowing God, like really knowing Him in all the deep, dark places. She brings in stories about Mary & Martha and stories from her own personal life and Scripture and C.S. Lewis quotes and experience as a woman in the church and time spent in Oxford while her husband got his doctorate. It’s just this culmination of words by a powerhouse of a woman who hits it home with Truth every freaking time.

But there is something more we need to do to discard unbelief. We must affirm God’s plan in the present moment–say yes to God and what he is doing in our lives today. ‘Trusting God in the midst of our pain and heartache means that we accept it from Him….To truly accept our pain and heartache has the connotation of willingness. An attitude of acceptance says that we trust God, that He loves us, and knows what is best for us.’ This is not to wave a white flag of surrender, resigning ourselves to the inevitable because we are helpless to do anything else. Trusting God means we embrace his goodness in this part of the race and determine, by his grace, to run.”

“Our goal is to bring knowing God out of the ivory tower and into the ordinary moments of our lives.”

“A woman’s theology can make all the difference in how well she fights the battles that are part of God’s plan for her. Sometimes theology is all we have in the war zone. When faith is stripped to the bone and all our props and crutches are gone, our knowledge of God — that he is good and still on his throne — is the only thing that keeps us going.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. I can’t rave about this book enough and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on the couch in our office and cried my eyes out because of the weight of Truth I never allowed to crush me until now. Let the gospel crush you and don’t look back. Let it cripple you so you can gain a new view of God, a new facet to understand His grace and goodness.

Throw off what hinders you. Throw it off and run towards God. That’s all I’ve felt burning with everything in me since I really got into this book.

I find a nearness with Him in early morning hours and small sips of coffee and being outside in the burning heat and writing and little things that bring me joy: making coffee for people, light pink manicures, Steffany Gretzinger’s voice, heart to hearts, planning for small group, among hundreds of other things. I’m beginning to recognize Him in a lot more things.

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In-all-honesty #1: I’ve been interested in the idea of suffering a lot more lately. I went back the past couple nights and looked at journals from January-February of this year. That was the rough stuff.So when I came across James’ book, well, it sort of just made sense. I wasn’t sure when I was going to talk about it, looking in hindsight now, but here we go. We’re doing this. In-all-honesty #2: this blog has made me more vulnerable, in the best way possible. It’s made it easier to be vulnerable. I used to hate being vulnerable because it’s always seemed to me that vulnerability equals weakness, but I’m coming to find that isn’t true. God speaks through our weaknesses and our vulnerability, but not to confuse the 2 as one in the same.

weakness [week-nis] noun. the state or quality of being weak; lack of strength, firmness, vigor, or the like; feebleness; an inadequate or defective quality, as in a person’s character; slightfault or defect.

vulnerable [vuhl-ner-uh-buh l] adjective. capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc..

Vulnerable doesn’t mean to be in the hurt, it means to be open or capable of being hurt, but not necessarily weak from being hurt already. By definition, they are not the same. They do not equal each other.

But back to in-all-honesty #1: So the journals. I see a shift from joyful to desperate. Clear as day, there it is, literally in writing.

12/31/14: This year was a victorious one…Holy wow. God is so freakin’ faithful. 

***1/14/15: But I am allowed to feel this way. I am…I cried today. Brutal tears. All unleashed by, “How was your day?”…I want to be numb & unexposed. 

1/20/15: I have people who love me from the depths of my soul & in the darkest parts of my heart & I don’t know what I did to deserve them.

1/28/15: Mornings are better. No more desperate pleas in the morning.

2/2/15: I want to relearn what being a child of God means. I want to read the job description, please. God, meet me over coffee; I need you. I need to hear Your voice.

And there are messier, more personal ones. There are hundreds of pages of pleading and whys and this is how I’m thinking in these moments and it’s not good. And then, as the months go on, the entries get less and less desperate and then they get more desperate and then less again.

I counted the number of days I cried, and then when things got better, I would count the days I could go without crying. I had nights where 3 hours of sleep was the most that could happen. I had days where I didn’t eat, not because I tried not to, but because I couldn’t. People suggested counseling. I had friends tell me they were going to drive me there and not tell me until we got there because I needed to go. Nights were the worst. I questioned every single decision I made in those 2-3 months and every decision leading up to those months. But there was honesty in the writing, oh boy, was there honesty. Wilderness. I’m still there, but my God, was I lost in those months. It was like a deep, dark forest, no moon illuminating the way. Just black and fear and darkness with no trail or footprints. And now it’s more of a clearing. Now there’s a little bit of lost with light and a clearing.

I thought the suffering was for nothing. Everything was burning around me, usually from the inside out, and any wrong sidestep, I might’ve exploded. Just like walking through a minefield. I’m not saying I’ve felt all of the suffering there is to feel, but I had my fair share, but definitely not the worst pain anyone has ever been in. Rather than recognizing that I was tasting Jesus in those months, I felt like I was drinking myself drunk in tasting suffering. I refused to believe that God tasted like this. If it wasn’t self-inflicted inner turmoil or destruction of self-worth or convincing myself that lies were truth, then it was things outside my control like the death of a friend’s family or arguments or the repercussions that my going-into-hiding had on my relationships. That’s what January and February felt like to me: a minefield. It only took me 6 months to figure that out though.

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James writes, “Most of us are better theologians in hindsight.” That keeps proving to be true. I think it’s easy to believe God isn’t in the mess with you because He’s so perfect so why would He ever get caught in your mess that you single-handedly created? And then hindsight is 20/20 and we recognize His goodness and His sovereignty in all the crap we had to plow through to get to this field of wildflowers where we hear Him calling us, “Child. Daughter. Worthy.

And now I’m beginning to find Him in all things again. In house church and in coffee dates and in bed time routines. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here. He’s always been here. Pouring over me. Wrapped around me. In & through me. Surely, the Savior has made a way. He is enough. He is more than enough. He is faithful in all things.

He is victorious.

I will look up, for there is none above You. I will bow down to tell You that I need You. Jesus Lord of all. I will look back and see that You are faithful. I look ahead believing You are able. Jesus Lord of all, Jesus Lord of all. Prince of Peace, Perfect Healer. All my life, all my cares on You. King of Kings, Mighty Savior. All my life, all my cares on You.

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Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.

Joy Williams’ new album is my new obsession.

Hazelnut lattes are growing on me.

I have had flashbacks to last summer this entire week.

Watercoloring with Perry is still one of my favorite things to do.

I read the story of Jacob’s dream for the first time last night & it rocked my world. It was so relevant after everything I put in the previous blog post about not knowing where I meet God or where I find Him the best (click here for previous blog). Here is the story of Jacob’s dream, just in case you need a little refresher.

10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

18 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacobmade a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

It hit me: He is a living God. Surely He has been here this entire time and I failed to recognize Him, in the mundane & in the miraculous. I failed to recognize Him or ask for eyes to see Him. I had an awesome friend text me after reading the last blog post & she told me that the Bible is like a photo album of God and we have to continue to drink deep in His Word because that’s how we’ll learn about His character. We read about Him in the past & find His character in Jesus in order to recognize Him in the present. He is a living God, so He won’t meet me in the same way He did yesterday. I needed to hear all of these words, and reading the story of Jacob’s dream, that just solidified it even more. He is a living God.

I’ve gotten to a place where I desire to see Him daily. I don’t want to just recognize Him when things get rough and I know I need Him, but I want to want Him now and I desire intimacy with Him now. I want to recognize Him now. I don’t want to look back and realize He was there, but I want eyes to see Him now.

I’ve come to the conclusion that you never really stop wanting now. We’re a very now-oriented people. Wanting is a human desire that won’t end until we’re not human anymore. Wanting is sort of what plagues us, in a way. We want a million dollars or we want the romantic relationships we see in shows or we want that promotion or we want to go travel or we want to go shopping for a new wardrobe or we want to have 27 hours in a day or we want a beautiful voice to worship with or we want a better prayer life or we want a more intimate relationship with God. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes wanting is a very good thing. Wanting keeps us setting goals and actually doing things with our lives, so sometimes wanting is an awesome thing. But then sometimes, wanting leads to comparison and that’s not the greatest thing. And it doesn’t lead to the greatest things.

I think once we understand that what we have in this moment is everything that God has equipped us to have to deal with things in the present, the closer we’ll feel to Him and the more satisfied we will be. That realization kills comparison. And like I said, our God is an active God who never stops equipping us with new qualities or things to help us to navigate our daily lives.

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I thought that quiet mornings were my love language with God. I always picture meeting Him in quiet morning moments, coffee in hand, sheets all bunched up, light flooding through the windows, quiet surroundings. I picture Him speaking into the quietest times of my life. I don’t know why I didn’t realize sooner that He rarely shows up within the parameters of my expectations. He moves in ways that I can’t explain or even begin to imagine. But I do know that He is always moving, He is always active, and He is always here.

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